AUSTIN, Texas — After signing bills last month related to the failure of the state's electric grid in February, Gov. Greg Abbott is following through with promises to improve the grid's reliability.
On July 6, he sent a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas, or PUC, directing them to take immediate action to improve electric reliability across the Lone Star State.
“The objective of these directives is to ensure that all Texans have access to reliable, safe, and affordable power, and that this task is achieved in the quickest possible way," the letter states. "Through clear communication, transparency, and implementation of these critical changes, the PUC and ERCOT can regain the public’s trust, restore ERCOT’s status as a leader in innovation and reliability, and ensure Texans have the reliable electric power they expect and deserve."
The governor urged the PUC to take the following actions immediately:
- Streamline incentives within the ERCOT market to foster the development and maintenance of adequate and reliable sources of power, like natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. The PUC has the ability to redesign segments of the market to incentivize and maintain the reliable electric generating plants our state needs. Those incentives must be directed toward the types of electric generators we need for reliability purposes. The goal of this strategy is to ensure that Texas has additional and more reliable power generation capacity.
- Allocate reliability costs to generation resources that cannot guarantee their own availability, such as wind or solar power. Electric generators are expected to provide enough power to meet the needs of all Texans. When they fail to do so, those generators should shoulder the costs of that failure. Failing to do so creates an uneven playing field between non-renewable and renewable energy generators and creates uncertainty of available generation in ERCOT. To maintain sufficient power generation—especially during times of high demand—we must ensure that all power generators can provide a minimum amount of power at any given time.
- Instruct ERCOT to establish a maintenance schedule for natural gas, coal, nuclear, and other non-renewable electricity generators to ensure that there is always an adequate supply of power on the grid to maintain reliable electric service for all Texans. Regular maintenance of our natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants must be strategically scheduled to prevent too many generation plants from being offline at the same time. This will help prevent an artificial shortage of power.
- Order ERCOT to accelerate the development of transmission projects that increase connectivity between existing or new dispatchable generation plants and areas of need. Dispatchable generation, such as natural gas, coal, and nuclear power plants, are essential for the reliability and stability of the electric grid because they can be scheduled to provide power to the grid at any time. We must ensure that, at any point in time, ERCOT is utilizing non-renewable electricity in sufficient amounts to maintain reliable power throughout our state.
In the 87th Texas Legislative Session, lawmakers passed two bills to protect the power grid, both of which Gov. Abbott signed into law.
One, in short, overhauled ERCOT and the State public utility commission to step up oversight and change the rules about who can be on ERCOT's board.
The other creates a statewide power outage alert system and requires power generators to weatherize their facilities. If they don't, those plants could face fines of up to $1 million. But, at the time of signing, this law did not include any deadlines for "weatherization," saying only that it had to be done in a "reasonable period of time."
On July 12, ERCOT responded to Abbott's directives to take immediate actions to increase power generation capacity and ensure reliability of the Texas power grid.
ERCOT sent a letter to Abbott detailing the strategies they have taken to achieve those goals. Those strategies include:
- Increasing the amount of electric power generation.
- Purchasing significantly more power reserves.
- Releasing power reserves to meet customer demand quicker.
- Procuring additional power reserves during uncertain weather forecasts
“These strategies, combined with the enhanced enforcement tools provided by the Texas Legislature, will ensure greater stability and reliability of the Texas electric grid,” said Gov. Abbott. “I work every week with the PUC and ERCOT to ensure that Texans have the reliable electric power they expect and deserve.”
You can read ERCOT's letter to Abbott here.
Mike Collier, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's Democratic challenger in the next election, issued a statement on July 6 calling Gov. Abbott's actions "vague," just days after he held his own press conference calling for elected leaders to "fix the damn grid" while Abbott and former President Donald Trump were visiting the Texas-Mexico border.
His statement can be read below:
“Gov. Abbott and Dan Patrick have no idea how to fix the damn grid. After a deadly winter storm that killed close to 700 Texans, Abbott and Patrick’s inability to fix the grid will continue to cost more lives. Gov. Abbott needs to fix the damn grid. There is no if, ands or buts about it. Lives are at stake. And as we head into the blistering summer, time is a luxury we cannot afford.
“We have been calling for Abbott and Patrick to fix the damn grid since its first major failure in February. FEBRUARY. Five months ago. In that time, Abbott and Patrick have been kicking the can down the road, passing legislation that claims to fix the grid but actually does nothing, and sticking Texans with the bill for it all. That dog just don’t hunt. Throughout this entire time, we’ve reminded them day in and day out that Texans everywhere are in desperate need of an energy grid that actually works. After weeks of silence and not until Abbott and Patrick saw the grid as an electoral issue that might hurt their re-election campaigns did they decide to begin addressing it.
“When I’m lieutenant governor, I will keep the lights on. I’m an energy expert, auditor and small business owner. Fixing the damn grid will be my top priority. It’s time to put an energy expert in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office to solve the biggest challenge facing our state. It’s time to keep the damn lights on.”
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: